CPFA Instrumental Music 2015-16

Home Facilitator Edition

Getting Started

Hello parents and guardians. Welcome to a new year and new adventures - every year is a new challenge for the CPFA Instrumental Program because the instrumentation and experience levels of our chamber orchestra shifts dramatically. This year's program features 2 juniors, 1 sophomore, 10 freshmen, 6 eighth graders, 8 seventh graders, and 6 sixth graders. We additionally have 1 on-site student not taking orchestra and 2 Remote Access instrumentalists who will be joining us at concert time. This equates to a VERY YOUNG group - possibly the youngest I've ever had at CPFA. The repertoire we work on will adjust to match, and our oldest students are taking HS Orchestra for Honors credit - something new this year - that will keep them engaged and challenged.


One of the things that has radically shifted this year is the way that parents, students, and staff communicate. With the new PALCS Gmail system for students, there are many advantages, but also a few disadvantages. I highly recommend that all PALCS students learn how to use Gmail's Labels and Filters. You can watch a tutorial on this HERE.

Since Home Facilitator PALCSmail no longer exists, teacher comments on student assignments do not get automatically sent to you. I recommend that you log in to Google using your student's school account [firstinitiallastname@stu.palcsmail.org] and then freely switch between their Google account and yours by clicking on the icon in the upper right corner of the Google homepage. Below is a screenshot of how to add their Google account to your browser. Notice that I actually have FOUR Google accounts for various areas of my life.

Teachers now communicate with parents via their personal email addresses. However, you can still Moodle Message your teachers via your Home Facilitator account. This is great for quick questions, etc.

I also manage CPFA's moodle homepage, public Facebook page, and am a regular on our closed CPFA group. I invite you to join the closed group - it is another avenue for staying in touch with faculty, staff, and other parents.

Big image


All wind and strings students must provide their own instruments. I have a small selection of school-owned instruments that can be used if a student forgets theirs or has repair issues. The exception to this rule is string bass - students may use the school bass rather than lug their own. ALL students must have their own instrument to practice on at home. If you need assistance with renting an instrument in your area, please let me know.

Students are permitted to bring their instrument to the Instrumental Music Room upon arrival in the morning or keep them in their locker if they fit. NO instrument should be stored in the corners of the student lounge or any other location.

Consumable supplies (reeds, valve oil, mutes, rosin, replacement strings, etc.) are the responsibility of the parent/student. I have a limited supply of all of these items for emergencies and I can make rudimentary repairs to instruments.

Please note that the first day that we will need instruments is Monday or Tuesday, September 14 or 15. You will not need your instruments on Arts Immersion day.


Each marking period, you will see several assignments on your student's class moodle page. Some of these are gradebook items that do not require student input (participation grade, dress rehearsal attendance grade, etc.). Students can enter some text in the text box on that assignment page to remove that lesson from their Lesson Overview list.

There are items that do require student input from home to be graded, however. The two main ones are Sight-Reading and Practice Recordings. Sight-Reading assignments involve logging into our account in Sight-Reading Factory, finding their assignment, then recording a sight-reading excerpt. Practice Recordings involve making a "before and after" recording at home of assigned material for submission.

There are also Concert Excerpt Recordings, which are assigned passages from their winter and spring concert music. These appear in marking periods 2 and 3.

Please let me know if you have any problems with recording at home.


Unlike many other area band and orchestra programs, our instrumental students at CPFA will NOT be successful with just the repetitions we are able to complete in class. Please make practicing at home a regular part of their schedule. The amount of time for each student depends on their aptitude level, but I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes 3 times a week (days opposite their CPFA days). I do not require a practice chart (they're ridiculous) and use the Practice Recording and Sight-Reading assignments to encourage at-home practicing. Here is a copy of the PRACTICE GUIDELINES that I will hand out in class.


The concert rehearsals, dress rehearsal, and main event are all listed on the CPFA Google Calendar, CPFA Homepage, and on my class moodle pages. These rehearsals are CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to our preparation for the concerts as they are the only time that we have to combine classes and rehearse the full ensemble, including our remote access performers. You will be receiving a concert commitment form to sign and return. Please black out these dates and times on your calendar and arrange for transportation. If you have a conflict with any portion of any rehearsal, please notify me immediately so we can work out a course of action.


I offer a middle school jazz ensemble that meets from 2:45 to 3:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays. It is strictly volunteer, no audition needed (playing jazz improv is intimidating enough!). I will be taking an interest poll at our first morning announcements. If we have enough instruments to fill a jazz combo, we will hold a middle school jazz band this year. Jazz instrumentation includes flute, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet, trombone, guitar, piano, bass, and drum set.

The high school jazz ensemble is by audition. Auditions are Thursday, September 24th. Signups and audition materials will be available on the Music Department bulletin board soon.


This is my 18th year as a public school music educator and my 8th year at PALCS. I previously was a one-man music department for grades 7-12 in Muncy, PA, a middle school band director in North Penn School District, and a high school band director in Lindenwold, NJ. I am an adjudicator for Cavalcade of Bands marching band and jazz band competitions, a newly-minted music judge for Drum Corps International, and I sing professionally part-time with KeyStone A Cappella. I also teach online private music lessons outside of school and local lessons in person within 10 miles of Downingtown. I am married and have two sons in the middle schools in Downingtown. Both boys are members of the Grammy-winning Philadelphia Boys Choir and just got back from a 3 week tour of China. Visit my personal website for more of my musical escapades.

Big image
My boys in Philly Boys Choir Uniform

Michael (13) and Daniel (11) - this picture is from 2014.